LEG 6 – MARATHON
OULAD DRISS-FOUM ZGUID
We told you it would be a challenge…
The Rallye ends with two marathon legs back to back!
Welcome to Chegaga, with its hills, its Draa River… and its sandstorms!
Wind will be the enemy for the next two days. Navigation is already a challenge here, and uncooperative weather just makes things worse.
Seamless teamwork will be required. The navigator will need to stay alert and keep an unflagging eye on her (modest) landmarks. The driver will have to constantly adjust her heading as she is forced to place the wheels where she can rather than where she wants to. An endless stretch of small dunes makes it next to impossible to stick to a straight heading. At sea this phenomenon is known as “drift”, but there is no undertow here, just small piles of sand no more than two metres high that push, push, push… The distance between points is measured in time rather than kilometres. But if they are luck they may spot some gazelles… of the 4-legged kind!
The strongest teams will tackle the dunes towards the end of this first day. Chegaga is less impressive than Merzouga, but you shouldn’t trust appearances alone.
In any case, everyone will be spending the night in the sands of Chegaga. One last night alone among Gazelles.
The following morning will be spent in the sand… again!
Whichever route they choose, the Gazelles will have to cross the erg, a relatively difficult task.
Next the route will take them across Iriki lake, a dried lake bed without a drop of water, just over 10 km of smooth flat terrain where you can almost see the earth curve away from you… the mountains in the distance appear baseless, seeming to rise directly out of an immense watery plain.
The Gazelles will be battling the heat all day to keep a clear head and stick to the shortest route. The grandiose cliffs of M’daouer, set alight by the evening sun, will accompany them as they approach the final bivouac.
One last heading for the bivouac, and then the Gazelles cross the finish line, filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
After one final festive night at the bivouac, it will be time to rejoin the real world.
In memory of Bernard and Jean.
Let’s hope that the desert is still as sweet without you.
At any rate, for many, it will never feel quite the same again.
The last three teams to reach the bivouac are on the finish line: 144 (Laurene VOILLEQUIN / Laure AVELINE - Adhome Services), 143 (Leila MASSON / Monica OBERLE - Programme Alimentaire Mondial) and 166 (Stephanie PIERI-CHESNAIS / Isabelle AVIS - TRANSAVIA). They still need to hand in their road sheet and tracking devices... But a glass of Tsarine champagne is waiting for them!
The stretch from the dunes to the bivouac offers easy navigation and driving. There are even several trails leading to the bivouac.
That’s how Team 178 (Marie GUARINO / Giliane STORRER - MERSE-TRANSAC) described their feelings at the finish line, in front of the Ranking office. "We’re happy it’s over but it’s really strange to say that this is the last time we’ll be handing in our road sheet. We’re proud to have found every checkpoint of the Rallye. At first we didn’t think we could do it, but we got into it because we’re pretty competitive."
We're starting to have a good idea of who will be on the podium but aren't saying anything... we'll let you make your own predictions!
...and honking horns: it feels like the end of the Rallye! Many teams have crossed the finish line before a crowd of photographers and cameramen. Tears, laughter, emotions, arms waving triumphantly... they are all proud of what they have accomplished. Just making it to the finish line is a exploit in itself.